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Tzipi Livni, Israeli Opposition Leader, Praises Hamas Commander Killing

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JERUSALEM — Israel's parliamentary opposition leader on Tuesday praised the assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai last month, in the first such comment from a top official.

Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima Party said the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was good, but she did not indicate who was behind the killing.

"The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn't matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism," she said at a conference of the Jewish Agency board of governors in Jerusalem.

Israel has refused to comment on assumptions that a Mossad team carried out the assassination. Dubai police have released pictures and passports with names of Israelis, saying the forged passports were used by the hit squad.

The Israelis have said they were victims of identity theft. Britain, Ireland and Germany have called Israeli ambassadors in for explanations about the forged passports, but Israel has not accepted responsibility.

Israel has come under withering criticism from some quarters in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of the killing of al-Mabhouh, who was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on Jan. 20. Dubai security cameras picked up 18 members of what the country's police commander said was a hit team, adding that he was virtually certain Mossad was to blame.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was grilled about Israel's alleged role in the killing when he met European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. In a statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that as long as there is no evidence beyond media reports linking Israel to the killing, the minister felt "there is no need to relate to the matter."

In the only Israeli government comment to date, Lieberman said last week, "Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies." He added, "I don't know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports."

Livni, a former foreign minister, served in the Mossad in the 1980s. In her address Tuesday, she rejected criticism of the assassination of al-Mabhouh, who Israel says was behind the kidnapping and killing of two soldiers in 1989 and more recently was in charge of obtaining rockets for Hamas militants in Gaza.

"The entire world must support those fighting terrorism," Livni said. "Any comparison between terrorism and those fighting it is immoral."

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